21 June 2013
Morocco Politics & Security
Continued media rumours about the King‟s health.
Rumours of corruption regarding the management of US aid to
Lower House‟s Speaker criticised for bonuses.
Salafists take over PRV political party.
Moroccans support the PJD government‟s fight against
Business and Economy
King launches major new infrastructure projects in eastern
American company Eaton to set up in Morocco.
Qatari investor withdraws bid for Maroc Télécom shares.
Moroccan employers‟ federation reviews progress with the PJD
Protests by sacked transport workers in Istiqlal Party leader‟s fief
Media and Society
Festival of sacred music in Fès a great success.
Member of the 20-Février opposition movement given a harsh
sentence on trumped-up charges.
Moroccans represent a significant proportion of migrants to OECD
More diplomatic flurries regarding opening of Algero-Moroccan
Morocco Politics & Security
The King has returned from France, apparently in good health,
to inaugurate a series of new projects, thus allaying public fears.
Parti de l‟Istiqlal leader has been notable by his silence and
Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane has yet to mention publicly
how he sees the future of the coalition.
Summer is now with us – and this, together with the month-long
Ramadan slow-down – should give the politicians some time to
stand back and reflect on the pace and extent of reforms.
Continued media rumours regarding the King’s health.
A lengthy private visit to France by the King set off further media
speculation about the sovereign‟s health. Given the government
crisis, with the Istiqlal Party‟s central committee giving the secretary
general Hamid Chabat a mandate to pull out of the ruling coalition,
the royal absence was worrying to some observers. By mid-June,
however, the King was back in Morocco, inaugurating the new
Maroc Télécom tower on 17 June in Rabat and infrastructure
developments in the eastern Oujda region later in the week (see
Business and Economics).
Allegations of corruption regarding management of US aid
Media reports suggest problems with the management of the
funding provided by the USA‟s Millennium Challenge Corporation
for programmes in Morocco. With the Agence pour le Progrès (APP),
the government agency established to manage MCC projects about
to be dissolved, the achievements as well as the malfunctions of the
programme are being aired.
The April 2013 sacking of director Morad Abid attracted considerable
attention: rumours of financial malpractice were circulating.
Washington had felt that there had been „inappropriate use of funds
to pay the APP‟s management‟. As part of US public diplomacy, the
MCC fund made nearly US$700 million worth of aid available for
poverty-reduction projects. To date, US$513 million has been spent,
two-thirds in support of small-scale fishing and arboriculture,
essentially focused on the development of olive and almond growing.
Morocco is eligible for further funding.
Salafists take over political party.
There has been much speculation about whether Morocco‟s extreme
religious right-wing would be authorised to create a political party. In
mid-June, some twenty Salafists, including the much publicised Abu
Hafs (Abdelouahab Khalidi to give him his real name), joined the
Parti Renaissance et Vertu (PRV). Abu Hafs is now a member of the
party‟s secretariat while the other new members are on its national
It will be interesting to see how the PRV and the much longer-
established PJD will interact when it comes to election time. Given
the PJD‟s reputation as the „party of good government run by honest
men‟, it would seem unlikely that the PRV will represent a serious
Morocco Politics & Security
threat except perhaps in seats where a candidate like Abu Hafs has
a strong local following.
Elsewhere on the political scene, the Parti de l‟authenticité et de la
modernité (PAM) is working hard to shed its image as „the Palace
party‟. Led by the technocrat Mustapha Bakkoury, head of the
Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy (MASEN), the party is emerging
as a modernist, left-leaning formation which is winning a certain
amount of support among the liberal-minded middle-classes.
Among the party‟s leading figures is Khadija Rouissi who along
with Fatiha Layadi has been vocal in promoting gender equality
and criticising the hyper-conservative pronouncements of certain of
Morocco‟s right-wing religious figures. One such sheikh, Ahmed
Raïssouni, recently declared that kafala (a form of adoption) could
not be granted to non-Muslims in Morocco for religious reasons – in
a country where the orphanages are overflowing with abandoned
Lower House speaker gives bonuses to close aides
With the PI secretary-general down in the Western Saharan town of
Dakhla to promote the party, it was over to the Speaker of the
Lower House, Karim Ghellab, who is another leading PI figure, to
spearhead criticism of the government. There was a major public
argument with premier Abdelilah Benkirane during a conference
on the right of access to information. To further poison the situation,
the Arabic-language daily Assabah published an article on 18 June
in which it revealed the large bonuses awarded by Ghellab to close
aides. The timing was unfortunate for the Speaker given the current
Benkirane counters his critics in the opposition
On 19 June the Upper House (Chamber des conseillers) held the
monthly PM‟s question time. There was no boycott by the opposition,
as had been the case earlier in the month in the Lower House due to
the unfair allotting of speaking time.
The main subject under debate was „government strategy in forestry
management and regional planning‟, hardly one to bring in crowds of
MPs and certainly not one which would allow the prime minister to
display his talents as a public speaker. The government intends to
reactivate the dormant National Council for Regional Planning.
Nevertheless, Benkirane found ways to attack the ways in which
certain land resources are monopolised, noting that social
movements are springing up across Morocco to attack unfair
privilege. He also reminded his audience of the King‟s intelligence in
launching reforms in March 2011 barely two weeks after the
emergence of the Mouvement du 20-Février. Benkirane also stressed
that it was not his way to interfere with his ministers‟ work, preferring
as he does to delegate.
Given the large number of ministers from outside his party, the PJD,
this could be taken as a way of demonstrating just how effective his
management style is to that of those politicians calling for their party
to withdraw from the coalition.
Morocco Politics & Security
Moroccans continue to trust the PJD
A public opinion survey just published by the Arab Centre for
Political Research and Studies (CAREP) sheds interesting light on
Moroccans‟ opinion of their first Islamist-dominated government.
While the opposition remains inflexible in its criticism of the
government and part of the coalition is actually ready to throw in the
towel and pull out of government, the Moroccan public actually
seems quite well disposed to the Benkirane government.
Although 91% of respondents felt that corruption continues to
plague the civil service, 63% remain convinced that the government
is determined to fight the problem; 57% said that they felt the
government would manage to deal with corruption while 65% felt
that the press is free in Morocco – a position which independent
analysts would find untenable.
Meanwhile 70% said that they had no worries about the Islamist
government having a hidden agenda. While the results of such
surveys are problematic in many ways, at the very least this
particular set of results suggests that Moroccans are still ready to
give the PJD the benefit of the doubt.
This interpretation would seem to suggest that the Parti de l‟Istiqlal
is out of synch with the dominant feeling about the country‟s
leadership. Istiqlal leader Hamid Chabat could therefore suffer
should early elections have to be called.
Business and Economics
Major new infrastructure works launched in eastern border
The King was in the Province de l‟Oriental on 18 June to launch a
series of major railway expansion and improvement projects, part of
the joint contract-programme for 2010-2015 between the Moroccan
State and the ONCF national rail company. Despite being the sole
rail link between the relatively isolated north-eastern border region
and the rest of the country, the Fès-to-Oujda line is currently operated
with diesel locomotives. With major development projects on the
coast – and notably at Nador which is the future Est-Med container
port - it had become imperative to upgrade the rail network.
Major growth in freight traffic is expected thanks to Est-Med and the
new rail link between Nador and Taourirt on the Fès-to-Oujda line.
The latter will get a new freight station and a revamped main station,
the aim being to bring capacity up to 1.5 million passengers a year by
2020 as against just 800,000 at present. Oujda is also the object of
an integrated urban development plan, the aim being to make the
Moroccan city with the shortest flight times to Western Europe
(excluding Spain and Portugal) an attractive and competitive option
for potential investors and industrialists.
Major US aeronautics company to set up in Morocco
The minister of Industry, Trade and New Technologies, Abdelkader
Aamara, announced that the American aeronautics giant Eaton is to
set up shop in Morocco. A provisional agreement between Midparc
Morocco Politics & Security
and Eaton to this effect was signed at Le Bourget‟s fiftieth annual
Salon international de l‟aéronautique.
Eaton, a world leader in components and systems for the aviation
industry will be creating a production unit in the Nouaceur
(Casablanca) Free Zone. Already installed there are the Canadian
manufacturer Bombardier and the French company Safran. With
this latest agreement, Morocco‟s status as a leading site for the
aviation industry on the African continent is further confirmed.
Maroc Télécom deal: Qatari investor withdraws
Following the withdrawal of the Qatari telecoms group Ooredoo
(formerly QTel) on 14 June, it looks as though the Emirati operator
Etisalat will be the future main shareholder in Maroc Télécom.
Etisalat is now the sole candidate for the acquisition of Vivendi‟s
53% share in Morocco‟s major telecom company. Despite having
mobilised US$12 billion to become a majority shareholder Ooredoo
has decided to develop its international presence in other regions.
It would seem that its offer, though lower than that made by Etisalat,
contained more conditions. Etisalat will probably be taking on a
profitable company despite the slowdown in profits of the last few
years. Maroc Télécom is also active in sub-Saharan Africa, an area
generally considered to have considerable growth potential.
Employers’ federation evaluates president’s first year in office
The Confédération générale des employeurs marocains (CGEM)
held its AGM on Monday 17 June. At the 2012 assembly, the
influential employers‟ organisation elected Miriem Bensalah-
Chakroun (MBC) to lead it, the first time a woman had held the post
and certainly not the easiest time to take on the three-year job, given
the European economic crisis and the presence of a relatively
inexperienced team in government. The main challenge for MBC‟s
team was to develop a working relationship with the Benkirane
government to tackle the effects of the crisis and work out new
measures to support enterprise in a fairly morose business climate.
The relationship between Morocco‟s entrepreneurs and government
has, however, been up and down to say the least since June 2012.
The CGEM heavily criticised the government‟s first budget, went
ahead with bilateral negotiations with the trade unions over pay rises
and working conditions, and, most recently, practically boycotted the
visit by Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On a more positive note, under Bensalah-Chakroun, the CGEM has
worked on vocational training, business social-responsibility and the
question of payment schedules. It is hoped that during the second
year of MBC‟s mandate a more harmonious working relationship will
develop with the government.
The question of bilateral free trade agreements is particularly
worrying for major sections of Moroccan industry. There are calls for
certain areas of these agreements to be renegotiated. The country‟s
leading steel producer was bailed out earlier in the year; its profits
had fallen through the floor as the Moroccan market has been flooded
by cheap finished and semi-finished metal products imported in
particular from Spain.
Morocco Politics & Security
CGEM members also feel that Morocco‟s taxation system is a
serious obstacle to their competitiveness, as is the current
legislation on public tenders.
The CGEM is not the only organisation representing Morocco‟s
business sector. There is also
the UGEP, established in 1957 and traditionally close to the
Parti de l‟Istiqlal, led by Moncef Kettani;
the Confédération marocaine de TPE-PME, founded in 2011 to
represent small and medium-sized business and headed by
Abdellah Elfergui); and
Amal Entreprises, created in 2004 and close to the ruling PJD
(led by Taïeb Aisse).
There is now growing rivalry between these organisations because,
under the terms of the 2011 constitution, they will for the first time
have elected representatives in the upper house of Parliament.
Though Taïeb Aisse has denied any political affiliation, his
organisation‟s proximity with the PJD was clear during Erdogan‟s
recent visit. It was Amal Entreprises which was given responsibility
for the commercial part of the Turkish delegation‟s programme.
Continued protests by sacked transport workers in Fès
The dispute between transport workers and bus-company
management in Fès continues. On 15 June, the last day of the city‟s
prestigious music festival (see below), workers fired from the bus
company demonstrated on the Avenue Hassan II, blocking all traffic
on the city‟s major thoroughfare. Riot police faced down
demonstrators for over an hour, keeping them from moving through
Protest of this kind are familiar in Morocco. In certain cases, the
situation has turned nasty – see for example the protests in Taza in
2012. Happily, there has been no violence to date in Fès. Rumours of
the city‟s mayor and Istiqlal politico Hamid Chabat benefiting
financially from the public transport company‟s restructuring remain
Chabat‟s son Nawfel was recently declared innocent of drugs-related
charges by a Fès court. For many of the city‟s inhabitants, the mayor
is a suspect figure who has done nothing to clean up a municipal
administration marred by corruption at multiple levels.
Media and Society
World festival of sacred music in Fès a great success
The nineteenth session of the Fès Festival of World Sacred Music
went off without a hitch (the city‟s mayor has nothing to do with the
organisation, which is the purview of an independent non-profit-
making association). For a week, the country‟s most historic and
religiously most conservative city hosted concerts which saw crowds
sway to gospel choirs from South Africa and North America and sing
along to the political anthems of Nass el Ghiouane, a rootsy 1970s
group enjoying a new surge of popularity.
Morocco Politics & Security
The concert by Syrian diva Assala Nasiri was sold out and even
Patti Smith drew a respectable crowd. Current demands for the
release of political prisoners were, however, kept off stage. During
last year‟s event, the plight of popular rapper Lahaqqad, sentenced
to a year‟s jail for a song criticising police brutality, was brought to
festival goers‟ attention.
Human rights: M-20 figure receives harsh prison sentence
Although rapper Lahaqqad was recently released, the question of
human rights abuses in Morocco has much preoccupied
organisations like Amnesty International in recent weeks. One of
the icons of the Mouvement du 20-Février, Oussama Lakhlifi, has
just been sentenced to four years in jail for a supposed „attempt to
have sexual relations with a minor‟ and „public drunkenness‟.
Lakhlifi, who was one of the first to circulate the protest message of
the M-20 on social media, was subsequently the object of criticism
for joining the Parti de l‟authenticité et de la modernité (PAM) which
was „created‟ by the Palace seven years ago as a counterweight to
the growing political influence of the Islamists. Whatever the
reasons which led Lakhlifi to commit this error of political
appreciation, he was one of a handful of bold individuals who
launched the spring 2011 protests in Morocco which led to the
Palace initiating a reform process which has probably spared the
country much strife.
The general feeling expressed in the media is that he does not
deserve such a harsh sentence based, in all likelihood, on trumped-
up evidence. This is by no means the first time that a vocal opponent
of the system has been locked away on unfair charges.
Moroccans - significant minority among OECD migrant groups
Migrant flows to OECD countries continue to grow. Morocco is one of
the countries contributing migrants coming in at ninth place. In 2011,
110,000 Moroccans headed for OECD states which was 2.1% of the
total entries. 2007 saw the number of Moroccans peak at 144,000
migrants. With 530,000 migrants to the OCED in 2011 China counts
for 10% of the immigration into the zone.
More flurries around opening border with Algeria
Will the frontier between Morocco and Algeria – which has been
closed for longer than any other border in the world - ever actually
open? In late April the Algerian Interior Minister, Dahou Ould Kablia,
declared that the question would be resolved in the near future.
On 19 June, however, Algiers rejected the calls by Arab lawyers for
the opening of the border in a 8 June demonstration that was held on
the banks of the river separating the two countries near the
Mediterranean town of Saïdia. The Union of Arab Lawyers is to
constitute a commission which will send its reports on the situation to
Algeria and Morocco as well as international organisations concerned
with the question.
Produced by Menas Associates Limited, 31 Southampton Row, London WC1B 5HJ, UK. Tel: +44 (0)20 3585 1401
All information contained in this publication is copyrighted in the name of Menas Associates Ltd and as such no part of this publication may be reproduced, repackaged, redistributed, resold in whole
or in any part, or used in any form or any means graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping, or by information storage or retrieval, or by any other means, without
the express written consent of the publisher.
Menas Associates Ltd cannot ensure against or be held responsible for inaccuracies. To the full extent permissible by law Menas Associates Ltd shall have no liability for any damage or loss
(including, without limitation, financial loss, loss of profits, loss of business or any indirect or consequential loss), however it arises, resulting from the use of any material appearing in this publication
or from any action or decision taken as a result of using the publication.